We recently previewed LinkedIn’s great new mobile app that provides support and advice on job interviews. One of the highlights of this LinkedIn app was the ‘How to answer common interview questions’ tool. In this article we are going to investigate further to see which questions are being asked by employers time and time again, and how you can answer them.
Here are the 5 most commonly asked interview questions as researched by LinkedIn:
1. Tell me about yourself
This is typically a great starter question by the employer, and aims to settle your nerves and break the tension. Not only that, it will allow the interviewer to explore a little further into your personality. Remember, they have only read your CV and have no idea if you’ll fit into the team and the company’s culture.
Approach this question in a friendlier way than you would any other. This isn’t your chance to list off all your skills and qualifications to prove you should get the job. Instead, show them your personality and talk about outside activities – hobbies and interests, for example.
This doesn’t mean to say you should completely forget why you’re there though. So try to find a balance between talking about your ‘career self’ and your ‘normal self’. Talk about what you like to get up to on the weekend – spending time with the family, or playing golf. Also, briefly describe your career and what has led you to this very day. Be engaging, honest and above all else – yourself.
2. What is your greatest weakness?
This is probably one of the hardest questions you’ll be asked in an interview. You will often feel very uneasy about this question because it goes against why you’re there in the first place – and that’s to explain what you’re good at.
Self deprecation doesn’t seem right in a job interview, and that would certainly be the wrong thing to do. Instead, look to be honest about your weaknesses and explain how you are striving to combat them. The employer is asking this question to test your integrity and honesty. Are you going to spin them a yarn to make yourself look good? Are you going to actually turn the question around and avoid it altogether? Or, are you going to answer it honestly?
The biggest mistake you can make when answering this question is to try and fool the interviewer. One of the worst answers you can give is to say something like, ‘I work too many hours’. This isn’t a weakness and you are clearly dodgy the question to try and look good. Trust us – it won’t work!
There are 3 important factors to consider when offering up your weaknesses:
a. Don’t offer a weakness that would affect your performance directly
Offering up a weakness that would directly affect your performance is a bad idea. For example, if you’re applying for a sales job, it would not be a good idea to state communication as your weakness.
b. Don’t tell lies and/or ignore the question altogether
Telling lies or trying to dodge the question will show a lack of transparency. Personal accountability is very important to an employer, and you would clearly be demonstrating the opposite if you take this option. Honesty is always the best policy, but not to the point of bashing yourself. Choose the right words and stay clear of being too negative about yourself. You don’t want to leave the employer feeling like you lack confidence in your own abilities overall.
c. Explain what you’re doing to improve
The employer wants to know that you’re doing something about your weaknesses. If you don’t explain what you’re doing to improve, then how are you going to function in their business?
Nobody is perfect, and the manager who’s conducting the interview will have their own flaws. But acknowledging those flaws and being accountable for self development makes all the difference.
3. Why should we hire you?
Start by listing all the essential components. For example, if a certain qualification is required you could lead with that. The next thing to discuss is the skills, including both hard and soft. The specific or hard skills are of course very important and likely mandatory for the position. The soft skills, like communication, are equally as important but not so obvious.
An employer will typically be impressed if you are able to tune into the role and explain why you are the right person. Confirm that you have the right skill set, and then lead onto the more unique talents you have to offer.
Finally, focus on asserting your proven track record and performance. Other candidates will be able to offer the same or even more skills and qualifications than you, so set yourself apart from the rest. Recite previous results and explain how your achievements can be recreated for their business.
4. What would your co-workers say about you?
This isn’t the time to be modest, and you are more than welcome to be confident with your answer. Saying you don’t know and stumbling with this question is likely to leave doubt in the employer’s mind. Are you really confident in your own abilities? Do you get along with other team members? Are you a likeable person?
The answer you give should be shaped by the role and the tasks you’re expected to carry out. If you’re going to be working as part of a team, it’s important that you focus upon a team working answer. For example:
‘My co-workers would say that I am friendly and approachable, and willing to help anyone at any time. If there’s a problem I am usually the ‘go-to’ person to help out and solve it.’
As you can see from the answer above, this provides the employer everything they need in relation to team working. You could expand your answer further to include more important aspects of the role, but keep it as brief as possible.
5. Tell me about a time you failed or made a mistake
This question is very similar to the ‘what are your weaknesses’ one. You need to be honest and transparent, and make the employer believe your story. If your example sounds made up and extremely unlikely, then you are not going to come across as trustworthy.
However, don’t be too honest and talk about a huge gaffe that lost the company thousands of pounds. You need to pick something which is clearly a mistake, but isn’t threatening to the existence of the company or your job.
In the same vein as the previous question about your weaknesses, look to affirm the interviewer that you have learned from your mistake. Briefly explain what you are actively doing to ensure that doesn’t happen again, and turn the error into a positive.